Using evidence, storytelling and campaigning to improve living conditions for Roma children

9 Apr

Roma_2Fighting discrimination is a long journey marked by many small steps. An example: in April 2014, Rome’s Mayor Ignazio Marino banned the use of “nomad” – a word that was perpetuating outdated stereotypes and prejudices – to refer to Roma people in official policy and institutional documents. It followed a specific request from Foundation partner Associazione 21 Iuglio, and reflects an ongoing transformation in public attitudes.

It was with good intentions that the Italian authorities had first settled Roma people in camps in the 1980s, believing their “nomadic culture” meant they would not adjust to life in conventional houses. But now the camps, overcrowded and often lacking in proper sanitation or security, are not fit places for young children to grow up in. Their isolated locations and insecure tenure for residents make it hard for Roma families to find and keep jobs or to access services, including education. Continue reading

Putting the ‘Personal’ back into Parenting

30 Mar

EL_PER_apoyo_redinnova (2)When I started working at the Foundation a year ago, my first task was to assist in the preparation of the publication Early Childhood Matters. The topic chosen for the issue was responsive parenting. As I did some deeper research I came across a quote by attachment theorist, John Bowlby: “If a community values its children, it must cherish their parents.”

I was immediately struck by the comment. Knowing the science of early childhood development, I had always considered the parent as a critical factor; but with a heavy focus on the child, I sometimes regarded parenting as a static input alongside high-quality living conditions, proper nutrition or access to health services. Essentially, I removed the human component from parenting.
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Time for Child Care: The Need to Improve Access to Quality Care is Long Overdue

12 Mar

No ceilings_The Full Participation ProjectTwenty years ago the historic UN Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995 brought together delegates from 189 nations around a platform of action that called for “the full and equal participation of women in political, economic, social and cultural life”. As the international community celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8, commemorating achievements of women and girls throughout the world, how close are we to achieving that goal?

According to a report released this week by The Clinton Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, No Ceilings: The Full Participation Report, while progress has been made in areas of health, education and legal rights; in areas of security, economic opportunity, and leadership, “the pace of change has been far too slow… and even when there has been progress, the gains are not shared by all”. Continue reading

Mom, I’m on the blog! – 21st century skills at primary school

5 Mar

Onze klas mijn wereld2Yesterday, as I was sending a text on the train, the conductor said ‘I type the exact same way as you, with one finger.’ I replied: ‘I’m always jealous of how young people do it, much more quickly, with two thumbs.’ The conductor agreed. ‘My son always says: “Dad, you are so slow”. I tell him: “But at least I don’t make any mistakes.”’

Kids are writing and reading more than ever. They spend the entire day on their phones on WhatsApp, Facebook or myriad other websites that are mediated by written language. Who could have foreseen that smartphones would represent such an attack on functional illiteracy? They are a golden opportunity for language education – and yet, in school, they are usually forbidden. How strange. Continue reading

Inaugural conference of the Institute for Human Development, Nairobi

25 Feb
Photo • Rosemary Quipp

Photo • Rosemary Quipp

Earlier this month I visited Nairobi to attend the launch of the Institute for Human Development, a new centre of excellence that will build capacity and drive innovation in research and higher education on human development. Its aim is to advance the quality of individual lives and contribute to the building of successful pluralistic societies, with a particular focus on children, families, and communities within resource-poor regions of the world.

The Institute is a part of the Aga Khan University and brings together researchers, teachers, practitioners and students from across the university and the Aga Khan Development Network, linking with partners in other parts of the world, such as the Fraser Mustard Institute for Human Development, part of the University of Toronto. Continue reading

Calling for a two generation approach to child development

13 Feb

Stepping up Early Childhood Development - World BankOver the years there has been a long standing recognition that child development is influenced by conditions facing families and in turn families are influenced by the community around them. These concepts have recently received renewed attention through a new report released by the World Bank, Stepping Up Early Childhood Development: Investing in Young Children for High Returns (Denboba et al, 2014). The document provides a simple guide for policymakers and practitioners about how to invest in young children and families.

Ascend at Aspen Institute defines two generation approaches as those that “focus on creating opportunities for and addressing needs of both vulnerable parents and children together”. The new report from the World Bank highlights 25 interventions, grouped into five packages (pregnancy, birth, child health, preschool and family support). It reflects a two generation approach by including interventions directly focused on young children as well as a continuum of interventions that support families throughout the early childhood years from conception to 6 years.
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Learnings from the “Small Children, Big Cities” conference

2 Feb

Conference 'Small Children, Big Cities' in IndiaRapidly urbanizing India is undergoing changes on many fronts. India has a new government. There are technological changes, policy shifts and changes in the way people think. The democratic structure of this country allows us to be more vocal about our rights and ensure that they are being upheld. But there are many who are not even aware of their fundamental rights. I find myself wondering why they have been neglected for so long when they form the bulk of the population.

When these questions come up, we find NGOs like the “Humara Bachpan Campaign”, a national campaign which aims at a safe and healthy environment for children living in urban poverty, empowering those that truly have the potential to rise – the children of this country.

Read the blog post written by Anouksha Gupta on the Humara Bachpan website.

Incredible India!

23 Dec

IMG_0814In my role as editor of Early Childhood Matters, I was privileged to launch the latest edition, on “Small children, big cities”, at a conference in Delhi with the same theme. This was my first trip to India, and the relevance of the theme was very clear from when I first arrived in the city – there were construction projects everywhere, while roadsides are adorned with romantic adverts for new housing aimed at India’s fast emerging middle class.

Although wealth is growing in India, poverty remains widespread. Following the Delhi conference, we flew on to Hyderabad to visit project partners whose work had featured in a previous edition of Early Childhood Matters. With our support, Aide et Action runs early childhood centres for children of migrant construction workers, who often slip through the nets of official systems. It was clear that the parents of these children face tough working and living conditions and need all the support they can get. Continue reading

Why we need to talk to babies more

18 Nov

Why we need to talk to babies more
The baby diaper market — led by Proctor & Gamble and Kimberly-Clark — is projected to reach USD 52.2 billion by 2017. As the market grows, so does the investment in technology. In a recent article about the industry, Lauren Coleman Lochner paints a portrait of scientists in lab coats using saline solution to identify ‘pee-points’ on the quest for a perfect diaper. No leaks, no rash. As fathers, we appreciate this commitment to excellence, but we also have a simple, inexpensive, low-tech request to the CEOs of the leading diaper producers — help us remember to talk to our babies.

Read Michael Feigelson & Marcos Nisti’s blog on World Economic Forum.

Renske Keizer, first appointed Professor on Fatherhood

3 Nov
Renske Keizer, Professor on Fatherhood

Renske Keizer, Professor on Fatherhood

Renske Keizer started on 1 September in her new role of Professor on Fatherhood at the University of Amsterdam. She will conduct research on the influence of father involvement on developmental outcomes of children, teach courses on fatherhood and supervise PhD students on this topic. With a background in family sociology and demography, and by adding additional insights from the pedagogical and economic literature, she will provide a unique perspective on father involvement, specifically in the Netherlands.

Why is the Bernard van Leer Foundation supporting the specially appointed Professor on Fatherhood in the Netherlands? Continue reading

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